, Volume 222, Issue 1, pp 71–80 | Cite as

Sex differences in stimulus expectancy and pharmacologic effects of a moderate dose of alcohol on smoking lapse risk in a laboratory analogue study

  • Christopher W. Kahler
  • Jane Metrik
  • Nichea S. Spillane
  • Adam M. Leventhal
  • Sherry A. McKee
  • Jennifer W. Tidey
  • John E. McGeary
  • Valerie S. Knopik
  • Damaris J. Rohsenow
Original Investigation



Alcohol use is often implicated in initial lapses to smoking during quit smoking attempts. Mechanisms explaining this association are unknown but could include (a) learned associations between drinking and smoking or (b) direct pharmacologic effects of alcohol.


In a 2 (told alcohol vs. told placebo) × 2 (0.4 g/kg vs. 0.0 g/kg ethanol) between-subjects balanced placebo design, we examined instruction and beverage condition effects on smokers’ ability to resist initiating smoking and whether these effects differed by sex.


Participants were 96 heavy alcohol drinkers, smoking 10–30 cigarettes per day. After 15 h of smoking abstinence, participants consumed either an alcoholic or a nonalcoholic beverage and 35 min later completed a smoking lapse task.


Overall, neither instructions nor beverage contents influenced behavior on the smoking lapse task. However, the instruction condition had different effects in men and women. Women, but not men, were more likely to smoke and reported expecting greater satisfaction from smoking when they were told alcohol compared to told placebo. The effects of instruction condition on smoking behavior were not mediated by self-reported expected satisfaction from smoking.


Women may be more likely to choose to smoke after drinking moderate amounts of alcohol because of their expectations rather than the pharmacological effects of the alcohol.


Alcohol Smoking relapse Nicotine Balanced placebo design Craving Alcohol administration Pharmacologic effects Expectancy effects 


Conflicts of interest and source of funding

This study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, grant R01AA016978 to Dr. Kahler, and by a Senior Research Career Scientist award from the Department of Veterans Affairs to Dr. Rohsenow. The authors have no financial relationship with the study sponsor and no conflicts of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher W. Kahler
    • 1
  • Jane Metrik
    • 1
  • Nichea S. Spillane
    • 1
  • Adam M. Leventhal
    • 2
  • Sherry A. McKee
    • 3
  • Jennifer W. Tidey
    • 1
  • John E. McGeary
    • 4
    • 5
  • Valerie S. Knopik
    • 5
  • Damaris J. Rohsenow
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for Alcohol and Addiction StudiesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Preventive Medicine and PsychologyUniversity of Southern California Keck School of MedicineLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  4. 4.Providence VA Medical CenterProvidenceUSA
  5. 5.Division of Behavior GeneticsRhode Island HospitalProvidenceUSA

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